A Way to Honor

Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Yesterday, I had the honor of interviewing the husband of my friend, Pamela Foster. Jack Jones is a former Marine who fought in Vietnam–a wounded warrior. And Pamela is his wounded warrior wife.

I’m working on an essay based on this interview and plan to submit it to Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Vol. 2, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

But what I would like to say is that I learned many things in the interview. So many things in fact, it’s hard to zero in on the one thing I’d like to say in this Memorial Day blog. How can someone best honor the men and women who have served and “fallen” in more ways than dying in battle? (By the way, Jack doesn’t like the overuse of the word “heroes.”) After the interview, I decided that to truly recognize them . . . honor them . . . we need to listen to them.

I’ve known Jack and Pam for a few years now, and consider Pam one of my best friends. Still, after yesterday, I learned things I never knew before.

I must admit to a bit of apprehension before the interview. I worried that some of my questions might be intrusive, too personal, too upsetting. So, I appreciated the first words out of Jack’s mouth: “Don’t worry, you won’t offend me.”

That’s exactly what I was afraid of. So as I prepared my list of questions, I edited and edited, chopped, cut, wrote and re-wrote, afraid I might ask something that would offend him either with my naivity or worse, my stupidity.

But Jack let me ask whatever I wanted to ask, and after awhile, I didn’t even look at my list of over-edited questions. Instead, through simple conversation, I learned things I hadn’t even thought about and came away from the interview with a new respect not only for Jack, but for my friend, Pam.

We talked about why Jack became a Marine, about his first impressions of Vietnam, about the day he died and about how the war still affects him . . . and his marriage . . . today.

Jack has PTSD. He and Pam struggle with it on a day-to-day basis. But I admired their raw honesty with each other, the laughter they share together, even their respect for each other’s needs–though admittedly, sometimes that respect is delayed. True commitment. Through thick and thin.

Nothing in life is all good or all bad. But on a daily basis, Pam and Jack continue to learn that to exist, they must take each moment, good or bad, as it comes. They have learned the hard way that there is no other way to fight their fears of what lies around each corner.

Pam writes a blog called Wounded Warrior Wife. It’s a raw, honest look at the challenges she and Jack face due to PTSD. Today, her post included her thoughts on how to honor and not honor veterans. I will admit that I disagree with some of what she says about patriotism, though I understand it. But I also agree with what she says about how we can truly honor our heroes–yes, I believe they are heroes:

I cannot say this enough.  If you want to honor veterans, forget flags and parades.  Provide troops with what they need to do the God-awful job you’ve given them in whatever foreign country you’ve decided needs invading.  Cough up the money for the best care possible when they return to us with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD and do it quickly, not after they’ve spent a half-dozen years in misery while you paw through the files and hum and haw about each dollar to which they’re entitled.  Give them the newest and best fake arms to hold their lovers and children.  Pay to renovate their homes for that new wheel chair they’ll need.

Jack. . . and Pam . . . have been touched by war and continue to be affected by it. I have not. So, my point in writing this blog is to say that for any of us who have not been touched by war to understand the true cost of war, we must listen to those who have been touched by it. People like Jack. People like Pam.

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10 Responses to A Way to Honor

  1. Thank you, Jan. I know it’s going to sound corny, but I DO feel honored by your post.

  2. Duke Pennell says:

    Thanks, Jan. Nice job.

  3. Jack Jones says:

    Great job Jan! Again the only heros are the ones that returned with missing limbs or TBIs and still struggle to make a life for themselves.

  4. Mark W. Jones says:

    Hey Jan,
    I am so proud of my father Jack. (A.K.A. Pops) He does not like to be referred to as “hero”. After I was old enough to understand his (their) sacrifice, “Hero” seemed to be an understatement. But this descriptive word “HERO” is how I think and speak of him often. Great blog! and thanks, Mark W. Jones (A.K.A. Baby Boy)

  5. Amen, our military men and women deserve great respect and the best of care. I’m putting together a Korean War veteran’s memoir and am horrified just reading what this man went through. The dead and the wounded have made the greatest sacrifices, but I think anyone who puts their life on the line to defend or otherwise help others is a hero.

  6. Jim Davis says:

    Great interview, Jan. I agree with what Pam said is the best way to honor our veterans. I also read Pam’s blog and highly recommend it to all.

  7. rgayer55 says:

    A great post, Jan. I think it’s horrible how our government treats veterans. The fat cats in Washington give themselves huge pensions and free medical care for life while giving our veterans a swift kick in the gut with steel-toed army boots.

  8. I too admire Jack and Pam for their honesty and trust with one another and yet, I’ve never taken the time to sit down and talk with Jack, to listen to him. Thank you for making me realize that acknowledging someone’s pain isn’t enough. Poignant as ever!

  9. Interviewing veterans was always my favorite task, however, you are correct in worrying about offending them. Still, most “heroes” tell stories that touch the heart and mind and make us think in ways we might never have done had we not met and talked to them. I’m so glad you did this with Jack. He and Pam and two of my favorite people.

  10. Mustang.Koji says:

    Pam’s words ring true. Every combat vet I know leads two lives – the one during the day and the hell during the night. I hope with all my might that our current leaders wake up and spend some dough where its needed most – to help these men and women and their families lead the best quality life due them without qualification.

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